In its time, Contax/Yashica made some very fine film cameras and lenses which continued after its acquisition by Kyocera. The company struggled for a few years during the early days of digital but were making some interesting cameras such as the Contax TVS Digital. Unfortunately, Kyocera halted production of all Contax cameras in 2005.
THE CONTAX TVS DIGITAL
The Contax TVS Digital is a 5 megapixel point and shoot digital camera introduced by Kyocera of Japan in 2002.
The camera uses a 1/1.8″ CCD sensor and features a Carl Zeiss (35mm equivalent) 35-105mmm f/2.8-4.8 lens. The camera has a shutter speed range of 8 seconds to 1/2000 seconds and an ISO range of 80 to 400.
Close focus is around 2 ft and goes to infinity. Macro range is around 5.9 inches. The camera has an optical viewfinder that has about 85 percent coverage and a tiny 1.6″ LCD for composition and playback.
The camera has a built in flash and runs on a proprietary lithium ion battery that must be charged in camera via AC adapter.
The camera uses standard SD cards up to 2gb. That was a lot back then! And in all honesty, it’s more than enough for a 5mp camera that shoots jpegs. There is no RAW option.
Let me be blunt…I was never interested in the Contax TVS Digital.
Why? Well, early on I saw that the specs were very similar to the Kyocera Finecam S5 and I picked up that camera in 2008 or 2009 for $10 dollars.
Considering that the TVS Digital was selling for around $400 or so at that time, I kept it out of my head. I said to myself…why would anyone pay $400 when you can get (possibly) the same camera for $10?!
Flash forward to 2016. Saw a TVS Digital for under $100. I said…DEAL!! 🙂
Right off the bat, it must be said that the chances are unlikely that many people are looking for, let alone thinking of the Contax TVS Digital in 2017. But you my friends, you are NOT the masses, that’s why you’re reading Camera Legend! You come here for those old, decrepit and forgotten cameras 🙂
Ok, so I’ve had a little time with it and I’m sharing my opinion with you. First, the Titanium Black version is beautiful. It feels well built, solid, much like the TVS film camera it emulates but perhaps lighter than the film version.
The controls are well laid out. Sometimes, scrolling through the ancient 2002 menu system can be a little confusing but you get used to it.
The optical viewfinder is small and dinky and I almost never use it. The 1.6 inch old school LCD is not much better, but I use it as it’s better than nothing.
Though the camera gives you an in focus indication, it’s hard to tell from either the optical viewfinder or the LCD that the camera is truly in focus. However, for a camera with the typical tiny sensor you really needn’t worry because in most situations, you’ll have ample depth of field for everything to be sharp. Only when in macro range or doing close-ups do I worry but more often than not the TVS Digital gets sharp focus.
The autofocus is decent, but slow. Considering it’s from 2002, we’ll forgive it! Writing to the sd card as well as playback are also slow.
In all honesty, I did not have high expectations of this camera. In my opinion, the original Contax TVS film camera, while beautiful, had a pretty average lens and was clunky to operate. The TVS Digital is almost a mirror image of its film cousin in image quality, perhaps a bit better.
The lens is sharp enough, but doesn’t strike me as one of those stellar, super-sharp lenses. It is not, but it’s good enough for most purposes.
Compared to the $10 Finecam S5 with similar specs, the images look as sharp but perhaps more contrasty. I’m not sure if it’s really the T* coatings doing their thing or if it’s just my imagination. Perhaps a more rigorous comparison should be done.
Anyway, the images are sharp with nice color and contrast. The colors lean a bit towards cool rather than warm. Don’t fool yourself, this camera is not going to do better than an equivalent modern day point and shoot. The 5mp resolution is limiting. The colors can go wonky at times. It’s sharp, but not the sharpest lens I’ve ever seen. Yet, when taken on the whole, I like the pics I get from this camera!
There’s a certain kind of quality to it. I’m not going to say “film-like” or “filmic” but it’s something similar and very pleasant to my eyes. Actually, yes, when viewing some of my photos at 100 percent, the “grain” did seem reminiscent of color film grain. It kind of makes up for the lack of details or low resolution.
The nifty macro mode is very good. In once instance, it did better than a Sigma DP2 Quattro I was testing. No, not in sharpness or resolution but in the fact that the TVS Digital got several sharp shots where the DP2 Quattro misfocused on the same shots, even though it gave me an in focus indication. That was a good example to me of getting the shot vs not getting the shot. What would you take, a 29mp blurry shot? Or a 5mp sharp, in-focus shot? 🙂
With a limiting top ISO speed of 400, the TVS Digital is not a camera one would likely use for low light shots. However, I found one pleasant surprise; when shooting in low light with no flash, the camera still produces surprisingly good color under these circumstances.
Check out the photo below. It looks well lit, but in reality, the room was dark and only the hallway light lit the subjects. With these circumstances, many cameras, even modern ones will usually produce reddish or yellowish colors, but the TVS Digital produced colors so natural here it puts a lot of cameras to shame! This was shot handheld, but this leads me to believe the TVS Digital could do better than I thought in low light conditions, especially if a tripod is used. This fact that the whole picture did not turn into mush is a pleasant surprise!
As one of the last cameras introduced by the now defunct Contax line of cameras from the Kyocera era, the Contax TVS Digital is seen these days as collectible and that it is, I suppose.
In use, the TVS Digital in many ways mimics the TVS film series. It carries very good optics into an all purpose point and shoot digital camera. Its performance can be good to very good, but not earth shattering. It’s a good basic point and shoot camera that happens to carry the prestigious Contax name.
Considering that the Contax brand of its era is gone, the TVS Digital is one of the few digital remnants that keeps the Camera Legend of Contax alive and as a Contax fan I would say that’s a good thing!
PRICE & AVAILABILITY
Unlike the Contax N Digital DSLR, the TVS Digital is almost always available on eBay. And also unlike the N Digital DSLR, prices have been trending downwards in the past few years, settling to around $175-300 with an average around $250. This indicates to me that even buyers know this is not a standout collectors item like the N Digital.
In my opinion, even at its current price, it’s is still too much for this camera. Again, for me, it all goes back to the Finecam S5, the Kyocera camera with similar specs. You can find this camera if you look for $10-30! But though they share similar specs, the S5 looks and feels a lot different from the TVS Digital. The TVS Digital is better in this respect.
If you are a Contax fan like me, and you don’t mind paying current prices, then I suppose it’s not an out of this world price to pay.
But buy carefully. As I mentioned many times before, Contax electronics are prone to failure. Make sure you buy from a place with a good return policy because if it breaks on you, there’s really no hope of repair.
If interested, try one of the links here and support Camera Legend at the same time. Your support will help me continue to bring you reviews on forgotten cameras such as the TVS Digital and many more film and digital classics of yore. Many thanks!!
7/29/17: ***DEAL ALERT***
Our good friends at Adorama have some great deals this weekend on some hot new Rokinon lenses! For a very limited time (this weekend) you can save a bundle on these awesome Rokinon lenses.